A Head Clearing Affair
A Head Clearing AffairReport Abuse
It was just after 10:30 last night when I walked outside our rental house on Block Island (R.I.), and instantly noticed the atmosphere was different. The stiff northeast wind that had been lashing the island for the past two days had vanished. I could hear the crashing surf a half-mile away, and the night seemed so still I couldn’t resist ditching my sleeping plans and instead hopping into the saddle of my trusty old mountain bike. It was time for a lap around the block. Sure, it was pitch-black darkness, but I needed the exercise to clear my head, and besides, I ride harder when I can’t see the miles that lay ahead.
As I coasted down the first of many steep coastal hills I half paid attention to the road, allowing the events of the day to play out in my mind. It had been a day of ups and downs on the racecourse at Block Island Race Week, but the single thing we could point to onboard the NYYC Swan 42, Mustang, was that we were getting better with every race.
We’d started the day with great news that the gaping hole in the boat had been patched, and that we were back in business. But being in business didn’t mean we had ourselves sorted out. Getting caught on the wrong side of a few critical windshifts didn’t do ourselves much favor, but we put ourselves where the wind wasn’t, so we are the one only ones to blame. Trimming, too, (for me at least) is a learning process; what combination of halyard, inhauler, car position, and sheet tension would work best for the changeable conditions. New to genoa trimming on the Swan 42, I’d read up on all the available tuning guides (2007 was the most recent I could find from both North and Quantum), but I was still grasping with the nuances of trimming outside the “guide.” It is a guide after all; why would the sailmakers give us the full disclosure? I can’t say I blame them. They have to look fast to be fast and sell sails.
We ended the day with ninth, a 10th, and a fourth (our best thus far), so all was not lost. Swan 42 racing, I must admit as a first-timer, is closer than I’d expected and most everyone has had at least (or will have had) a shocker of a result. It reminds me of the early days of the Farr 40 class. We were hoping that we’d gotten our shocker out the way early, and this was especially true for our skipper, Gary Jobson, SW’s editor at large.
I’m sure a few things from the day were eating at Gary, and he admitted as much when he told me that he awoke at 3 a.m., went downstairs, got a glass of apple juice and rehashed the day, and what we needed to improve upon. Perhaps it was in this quiet meditative time—sort of like my bike—where he realized that today (Wednesday, the Hump Day) was the five-year anniversary of his last stem-cell treatment. The day where he would fight on to live another day.
He told us so in our team meeting, which we held as we motored out to the racecourse this morning, reminding us all that we were lucky to be alive, sailing, racing, enjoying each others company, and able to improve on our results.
The first race of the day—contested in a light, shifty easterly (a 10th I believe) snapped us awake and we went on to have a much-improved second heat (fifth), feeling all the better for it. A few boats in our fleet, especially the leaders, had tough last races, so as far as we can tell we’re still in it for the hardware, but it’s only hump day, and we can’t get too excited. We felt we were going better today, but we know it’s all about one step at a time. It’s sort of a recurring theme for us, and especially for Gary: we would live on to fight another race, another day.
Thursday awaits: for now, it’s time to hit the pedals, and then hit the party tent to hear how others fared.
For complete results from Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex, www.blockislandraceweek.com